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Harriet the Spy (1996)
On your case!
Filmmaker(s): Bronwen Hughes

When the secret notebook of a young girl who fancies herself a spy is found by her friends, her speculations make her very unpopular! Can she win her friends back?

Is About Itself This little film has been roundly criticised for being disjointed and amateurish. Well, it is disjointed: part of it is surreal allegory, part realistic morality play. Part of it moves with a natural rhythm while other parts seem to have been transplanted...
Published January 19, 2024
| Categorised as IMDB Comments, Threes |
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Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (2019)
Mystery...has met its match
Filmmaker(s): Katt Shea

Nancy Drew, a smart high schooler with a penchant for keen observation and deduction, stumbles upon the haunting of a local home. A bit of an outsider struggling to fit into her new surroundings, Nancy and her pals set out to solve the mystery, make new friends, and establish their place in the community

Embraced Balusters I’ve watched this version and the one with the same title from the thirties back to back. Originally it was in the service of my history of mysteries, but neither qualify. Only this one is worthy of comment, because of the apparent excellence...
Published January 18, 2024
| Categorised as IMDB Comments, Twos |
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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019)
Filmmaker(s): Chiwetel Ejiofor

Against all the odds, a thirteen year old boy in Malawi invents an unconventional way to save his family and village from famine.

Stealing Energy This is well enough made to hide its nature, what we used to call Hallmark movies. These are films that tell a story without irony, narrative elaboration or recognition of its cinematic conveyance. The closer to reality and the fewer theatrics the better....
Published January 18, 2024
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The Magician’s Elephant (2023)
Dare to believe
Filmmaker(s): Wendy Rogers

Peter is searching for his long-lost sister when he crosses paths with a fortune teller in the market square. His only question is: is his sister still alive? The answer, that he must find a mysterious elephant and the magician who will conjure it, sets Peter off on a journey to complete three seemingly impossible tasks that will change the face of his town forever.

Layers Any children’s movie runs the risk of easily being reducible to a ‘message’, often mistakenly called a moral. I’ve already read a few reviews of this that mention the film’s message, and how wonderfully it is presented. I suppose if that is how you...
Published December 2, 2023
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Moana (2016)
The ocean is calling.
Filmmaker(s): Ron Clements, John Musker

In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by Maui reaches an impetuous Chieftain's daughter's island, she answers the Ocean's call to seek out the demigod to set things right.

Disney within Disney I was expecting a standard, manufactured Disney Princess item. What I encountered was a powerful embodiment of myth in a young woman, with the notable exceptions of the coconut pirate and glittery crab sequences. These were conceived and directed by others. I...
Published November 19, 2023
| Categorised as Fours, IMDB Comments |
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The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)
Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear overalls.

While working underground to fix a water main, Brooklyn plumbers—and brothers—Mario and Luigi are transported down a mysterious pipe and wander into a magical new world. But when the brothers are separated, Mario embarks on an epic quest to find Luigi.

Winning I shudder with the knowledge that in a few days, this grossed higher than any Pixar movie. Imagineer that. This about as charmless as it gets without the floor falling off, so I can only attribute the success to love of the character. As...
Published September 11, 2023
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Bingo (1991)
More hip than humanly possible.
Filmmaker(s): Matthew Robbins

Bingo, the runaway circus dog, is off the leash and saving Chuckie's life! Bingo and the boy become the best of friends in this canine comedy featuring doggy disguises and skateboarding, pinball and prison. Chuckie and his parents are moving house, a thousand miles away, but Bingo won't be allowed to join them.

The American Spirit One of the strongest influences in how a society imagines itself is film, and of films the strongest are where the characters are most abstract. Abstraction can be through cartoons or cartoonizing, stereotyping or extreme dramatizing. But the most elegant to my...
Published August 28, 2023
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The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (2022)
A journey, in search of home.

The unlikely friendship of a boy, a mole, a fox and a horse traveling together in the boy’s search for home.

Ensnared The affirmative platitudes that anchor this are inescapable, and since they are relatively true, you may as well embrace them. My tween boys did, and I’m glad for it. But why I am recommending this is the art and animation. I have to admit...
Published August 6, 2023
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Betty Boop’s Hallowe’en Party (1933)
Filmmaker(s): Dave Fleischer

Betty Boop hosts a Hallowe'en party with a few uninvited guests.

Underaware I really like some of these Betty Boop cartoons. Many of the early ones deal with the overlap of evil, sex and hallucinogens, often mixed with jazz and Black men. This is one of the tamer ones in terms of the evil tone: she’s...
Published July 27, 2023
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Beginner’s Luck (1935)
Filmmaker(s): Gus Meins

Spanky's mother pushes him to join a local theater amateur night.

Inverted Show This is my favourite Our Gang short. It has everything that I recall fondly: rowdy fellowship and kids conspiring against adults resulting in innocent mischief. Although the series had already been around a dozen years, for me the master cast was the Spanky,...
Published June 30, 2023
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